Sabbath Sermon: Alex Bryan, "A More Abundant Adventism"

Some Sabbaths, we highlight particularly significant sermons from around the Web. Walla Walla University Church Senior Pastor Alex Bryan's August 1 message, "A More Abundant Adventism," is such a sermon. In it, Bryan calls the Summer of 2015 a time of historic importance for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He suggests that two events this summer provided moments pregnant with important questions about the meaning of being a Seventh-day Adventist.

The first tolling bell (to borrow Bryan's language) rang at the General Conference Session in San Antonio, and revealed a church characterized by tension. Intra-church quarrels about governance, articulating doctrine, methods of biblical interpretation, and ordination have left much of the world church “stressed, wounded, confused, and searching.”

The second bell was the 100th anniversary of Ellen White’s death. Adventists have entered the second century (emphasis supplied) since the burial of the church’s prophetic visionary.

Bryan proposed a set of questions for thinking about the meaning of being a Seventh-day Adventist:

What was, and is the purpose of being an Adventist? What should be our purpose in the future?  What made, and makes, our work unique? What should give us distinction in the days to come? If we remain a movement, in what ways must we move? If we remain a dynamic church, ever seeking present, progressive truth, where are the places we must innovate? In what ways ought the new post-prophet century resemble the last one, and in what ways might the new century (if the church is to be healthy and alive) grow and change in new ways? How can we in the present moment pursue an even more abundant Adventism?

Bryan suggests that one way of envisioning future Adventism is through eyes that see God's presence permeating the world:

What would happen if we started to celebrate Atheists fighting disease in Africa, Catholics feeding the hungry in India, Presbyterians preaching the Gospel in New York, and Quakers waging peace wherever they are? What if Adventists became known as peerless proponents of the work of God in the world not only through our own commitments, but in the ample applause we render to others who are keeping His commandments as well?

The future is our opportunity, Bryan said.

Read the full transcript of Bryan's sermon, published on the Walla Walla University Church website, or watch the archival video below from the Walla Walla University Church's Livestream page. The sermon begins at approximately the 42-minute mark in the recording.


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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7033

What was? What is? Two very fundamental and good questions. Through the lense of many SDAs these two questions have blended into one. As I recall in both my home and education which was SDA, in 1844 this band of people had decided through their collective study that Jesus would return on a specific date in October. This became known as the Great Disapointmentment. So they where more into right now you better be ready because we may only be of here months or a year. So the message then while still applicable today of being ready for His return has had a natural metamorphosis into a religion.

So from my perspective, the Church today has changed into a religion that has a prophet, ( as does the Mormans and others ) a world leader, a set of governing bodies reaching down all the way to the pew. So while the message of a soon coming Christ is still the top of the list, the Church today attempts to include what ready looks like. EGW’s writings are clearly the foundation of those rules that some in this grand Church question. And I might add they question sincerely. Although I doubt leadership would agree. So while the church’s message is spread the gospel, much attention is being paid to holding things together.

This is a atmosphere in my opinion which will lead to fracturing. While I don’t want that to happen, unless leadership can become much more open to both really being willing to listening and inclusion of others it can go no other way. The message to the world concept is a hard sell give the far reach of the Church. However the great divide comes because we have so many members who in the NAD and several other divisions who are many generational SDA. and those who are what might be termed NEW. Those that are new, representing a large group are excited to be free in a spiritual sense. Thus we were bound to have what we got at SA.

how do you define your self? does Christain preceded Adventist or follow it? S.A. would have it other, and what a discord resulted. Tom Z

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[quote=“tjzwemer, post:3, topic:9232”]
how do you define your self
[/quote]The definition has been done in no uncertain terms. We have the truth, we are the remnant, we have the spirit of prophecy…all others are apostate. Hard to back off from these unbiblical claims.

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When the Lord examines a church His criteria for excellence have little to do with attendance statistics, budgeting complexities or program breadth. Tiny congregations composed of people completely dedicated to being a blessing to God and others will make the grade. The very best churches have similar points of excellence.
They are people who are consistently introducing non-Christians to Christ. They are learning and applying principles and truths of the Christian faith to their life. They are developing significant relationships with other believers, befriending, encouraging and holding each other accountable. They joyfully contribute their material possessions to ministries and individuals in need, for the glory of God. And they devote their time and energy to helping disadvantaged people. Cumulatively, these behaviors represent the Church in its fullest manifestation. Any church that is truly desirous of being the very best, can become such a ministry, even Adventist churches can achieve this level of excellence! The ideal role for the Pastor in these churches is one of “expert”, “coach”, and “facilitator”. Our seminary is NOT teaching about these roles and nothing about fundraising or the practicalities of church interactions. Where are the SDA churches of the future?

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I think the Adventist Church, made in USA and other religious denominations of the nineteenth century, has the same future that the nation of her birth: the United States. Adventism, not a purely evangelical concept but as a social phenomenon, puritanical in its genesis and a model of purely American life message, exportable to everyone, as was the Coca-Cola, the Kelloggs, or cars Ford, has become today, in the XXI century, in another commodity. In a placebo product to try to improve the lives of the followers in the manner and form as they did in decadent Rome, in the Middle Ages, and in later centuries.
I think as long as we know North America, the Adventist Church, like other churches, hundreds of them, existing in USA, we Adventist Church, whether we like most, like it least for long. After ?, after the possible and hypothetical fall and decline of America, no one knows what will happen. History is there and say that repeats. For each draw their conclusions. One thing is certain, another Roman Catholic Church (US) is not expected to arise and lasts more than 2000 years. It would be unbearable, tiresome and depressing …

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For a more abundant Adventistism: Although Bryant’s suggests are good, I think a better place to start is the modeling of a healthy church. The model Jesus left us was an intensely driven community needs oriented mission. Sermons were sandwiched between community betterment, not as our current model with full church on Sabbath and empty the other six days.

Second was the development of close loving friendship, a non-judgmental welcoming congregation, where Jesus could say, “As I have loved you.”

Third, was the sharing and empowering of local leadership, trusting them with full authority, with a significant time spent on building trust in God.

To implement the first step, I recommend we restructure our administration so that 50% of the tithe funds can be earmarked for, not church or school expenses, but for community needs.

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Bryan
Did NOT say this, but Alluded to it, in a way.
WHAT would happen if WE as SDAs JOINED other Commandment Keepers in THEIR work?
WHAT would happen if WE as SDAs invited other Commandment Keepers to JOIN US in our Work?

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I love Bryan’s suggestion for cheering on others who are also seeking to spread good news about God in various ways and places. This spirit is too foreign among most of God’s children as a spirit of competition, isolation, criticism, ‘we have the only truth’ mentality and much more dissolves the bonds of love between brothers and sisters simply because they belong to different organizations or hold differing views on Scripture. That is not to diminish the importance of advancing in knowledge of true facts. But I find nowhere in Scripture that God judges us based on how many right answers we know but we are evaluated rather on the spirit we display which betrays what the real condition of our heart is inside.
For a long time now I have wondered why even within our own church there is such a spirit of competition and self-promotion when Jesus so plainly commanded us to do the opposite. Our TV networks never promote the others and recommend them publicly but only want to attract more and more attention to themselves. What might happen if a new spirit came among us and we began to see ads for Hope Channel on 3ABN? What a shock! But what a testimony that the real grace of God might actually be making changes in hearts and expelling the blatant selfishness so prevalent in our ministries.
I really like Bryan’s spirit that prompts these suggestions, and whether or not the organized church ever begins to do something like that, each one of us in our own sphere of influence can examine our own spirit, our own attitude towards others that we may now see as competition and change our outlook to view things from heaven’s perspective instead of with worldly vision.
John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)

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This can’t happen because “the work of God,” in the Adeventist world, is calling people out of those other communities; and we can’t find any other people “who are keeping His commandments”. We would have to completely drop the hallmark of our identity - “the remnant” - and abandon our clarion call for separation.

The social gospel is a fairly recent adjunct to the Adventist protocol. We don’t provide the vegetable soup without the enrollment for Bible study - at least that is the Adventist church I grew up in; and that is the Adventist church promoted by the present administration.

In order for the SDA church to applaud Samaritans of all stripes, it would have to start breaking bread with them, and sharing our seat at the right hand of God. It would mean a complete upset of vision and purpose. That possibility is not on the horizon - sorry.

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Denominational competition is nuts. A bushel of rice is a bushel of rice. I have been. A Patient in an Adventist hospital and a Catholic hospital, in both cases, I received excellent care. in the Catholic hospital my LPN was an Adventist. A true Christian finds kinship among all races and creeds. Tom Z

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The August 22, 2015 sermon is part two of this two part series. It may help understand and answer some of the comments posted. It is Alex Bryan by the way, not Alex Bryant - a very different person.

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There is nothing wrong with the current present truth. The SDA message is wonderful and beautiful. There is nothing that needs change or needs any new and fresh ideas. It’s the people who are not living up to the light given by our adventist truths. It’s the people who need revival and reformation. Not by these pastors who preach this apostate messages of inclusion of worldliness. Bringing other doctrines and devaluing the commandments of God. The 10 commandments which are in the ark of the covenant in the heavenly sanctuary. There is No commandment about environmental issues in the ark. Keeping Gods creation is part of keeping the 10 commandments.
It’s so scary how these messages that point to our church and it’s doctrines as being in such need of change. The church and it’s doctrines are fine just as they are. It’s the people that need to wake up and see the beauty and have revival and reformation from the world and it’s subtle satanic influences. Not join the world as this pastor is preaching.
God help us all.

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Thank you, Pastor Bryan, for a wonderful sermon inspiring us to support Christ and His message wherever we see it. Living a more abundant life here and now.

Please keep preaching.

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How do we reconcile this with Ellen White’s counsel…“Seventh-day Adventists are now to stand forth separate and distinct, a people denominated by the Lord as His own. Until they do this, He cannot be glorified in them. Truth and error cannot stand in copartnership. Let us now place ourselves where God has said that we should stand… We are to strive for unity but not on the low level of conformity to worldly policy and union with the popular churches.”

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This month there was a meeting of 15,000 religious leaders of many different religions in an interfaith conference in Salt Lake City. There were speakers from various religious beliefs with which Christians are unfamiliar. They were seeking common ground that is found in all the beliefs.

One pastor reported that “this gathering allowed us to come to greater understanding that there is much more that we share in common that should be separating us.” Another leader of Brahmans said “we are now living in a global village.” A university teacher who lectures on peace building said, “I think that’s the message of what religion is.”

When people have a will to learn they don’t have a stubborn sense of “I’ve made up my mind.” One should never assume he knows everything about everything by claiming that he knows the final truth. A sense of humility is needed. Gandhi’s motto was “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Another speaker said that while religion is powerful and positive, it has also contributed to the oppression of women. Because many men are oppressed they are now oppressing women.

Adventists have always tended to insulate themselves from the world, viewing it all as evil. But in so doing, they have been unable to witness to that world. Compared to Mormons, approximately the same size, many know much more about Mormons than have even heard of Adventists. This is NOT being the light of the world, but covering it up under a bushel. Ecumenism is NOT a dirty word, but a way to build paths that go in either direction.

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